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Our must-have, can't-live-without, quirky kitchen tools — they'll surprise you

You might not think you’d use a julep spoon every day, but you may now!

You might not think you’d use a julep spoon every day, but you may now!

Spring cleaning season is here and a good place to start is in the kitchen, a room where organization can mean the difference between enjoying cooking — or never setting foot in there. An annual sort and purge renews my appreciation for the tools I can't live without; some of these kitchen gadgets I'll be keeping are super weird and wacky, but they help me cook better every day, often performing duties for which they're not even intended. I asked a few people on the CBC Life team and it turns out they have those unexpected favourites too, and so we're sharing them with you. We think if you tried them out, you'd find they'd make your kitchen life easier too.

These are the things we'll always make space for, no matter how deep a spring clean and declutter we do.

I use this more often than you would think, but not for lobster — to open bottles with tight lids. - Portia Corman, executive producer, CBC Life

OXO Good Grips Nut and Seafood Cracker, $22.99, bedbathandbeyond.ca

When I am rolling dough for tarts or pies and the recipe calls for a particular thickness, I lay one of these silicone strips down and roll to match the thickness of the rail. Cause, hey, I'm a baker not an engineer. - Portia Corman, executive producer, CBC Life

Country Kitchen SweetArt Pastry Rulers, $24.99, amazon.ca

I may have formed a dependence on this tool, since my family always had one and I never honed my freehand burger patty-making skills. I'm sure I could manage in an emergency barbecue situation, but I'd much rather make  perfectly pressed and even patties, so dense that they never fall apart on the grill. It may seem like an extra step, but using a burger press is actually faster than fussing over size and consistency with your bare, untrained hands. - Jamey Ordolis, senior producer, CBC Life

OXO Good Grips Burger Press, $21.22, amazon.ca

I lay this thing on top of or even in a small bowl, and squeeze lemons to my heart's content. It's great to simply lift up the (gloriously wide) julep spoon — all those lemon seeds with it. I picked mine up on a whim, and now I add lemon to so many more things and have been surprised at how much we use it at home. - Yasmin Seneviratne, producer, CBC Life

Barfly Julep Strainer, $27.48, amazon.ca

Because unlike all the memes, 'leftover wine' is a real thing in my house. - Portia Corman, executive producer, CBC Life

Host AirLOCK Wine Preserver, $31.04, wineonline.ca

I stole this hack from my highly organized, label-making bff. It's actually the thing to have if you don't have cupboard space. I stand my plastic wrap, parchment paper, foil roll and even my rolled up silicone baking tray liner in it. It keeps them visible and within easy reach, even if it's just beyond the cabinet door. More ways to use it: store kitchen warranties and instruction manuals so the model number is always on hand when a knob on the oven needs ordering or replacing. - Yasmin Seneviratne, producer, CBC Life

Buddy Products Single Wire Mesh Magazine File, $34.99, wayfair.ca

And now on to the kitchen tools I'll never toss

This smooth-handled gadget rolls out pizza dough right on a baking pan, so I don't have to dirty my hands or the counter. I just grease the tray and work the dough, getting into the corners with the smaller side. If it starts sticking to the dough, a quick dip in a bowl of water keeps it rolling smooth. It's also great for rolling out homemade crackers and pastry too, or packing homemade granola bars into a pan.

Norpro Deluxe Pastry and Pizza Roller, $15.59, amazon.ca

My wide-mouth funnel stays out all year and not just because I make a lot of jam. It fits the mouth of every mason jar or glass clamp-lid jar I own, so I'm constantly reaching for it to help me transfer dry goods. It makes an easier job of pouring hot stock into vessels to cool, and allows me to tilt a tray of toasted nuts into a container without having to get out a scoop.

Bernardin Canning Funnel, $3.25, goldaskitchen.com

Food blogger Kensia Prints tipped me off to the genius of a cherry pitter, and now it's a must-have in my drawer too. Olives keep fresher with their pits in them, so I'm buying quality ingredients without dreading digging the pits out. Bonus: the kids think this gadget is cool and will readily take over that work.

OXO Cherry and Olive Pitter, $17.95, williams-sonoma.ca

I appreciate uniform cuts, but find my guesstimates are often wrong. A simple ruler helps keep my chopping in check. It's also handy for rolling out dough into a required-size rectangle, or cutting a straight line in that same dough by measuring edge to edge and marking where the middle actually is. Plus, when a recipe calls for a specific-sized pan, my ruler can tell me which one that is without me running downstairs for a tape measure.

Acme United Westcott Stainless Steel Ruler, $9.98, bestbuy.ca


Jessica Brooks is a digital producer and pro-trained cook and baker. Follow her food stories on Instagram @brooks_cooks.

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